Evidence of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease could lie right behind your ear.
A team of researchers discovered that a skin sample taken from behind the ear of patients with either disease had levels of the tau protein 7 times higher than those without the condition. Those with Parkinson's showed levels of alpha-synuclein protein 8 times higher than those in the control group.
"Until now, pathological confirmation was not possible without a brain biopsy, so these diseases often go unrecognized until after the disease has progressed," said study author Dr. Ildefonso Rodriguez-Leyva of Central Hospital at Mexico's University of San Luis Potosi, in a release. "We hypothesized that since skin has the same origin as brain tissue while in the embryo that they might also show the same abnormal proteins. This new test offers a potential biomarker that may allow doctors to identify and diagnose these diseases earlier on."
The test was conducted on 20 Alzheimer's patients, 16 with Parkinson's disease, 17 patients with dementia due to other conditions, as well as 12 healthy subjects in the same age group.
"More research is needed to confirm these results, but the findings are exciting because we could potentially begin to use skin biopsies from living patients to study and learn more about these diseases," said Rodriguez-Leyva in the release. "This also means tissue will be much more readily available for scientists to study. This procedure could be used to study not only Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, but also other neurodegenerative diseases."
The study was done with the assistance of the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico.
Others are also scrambling to develop novel testing methods for neurodegenerative diseases. Last year, Cognoptix pulled in more than $15 million in a Series D financing round to advance an eye test for diagnosing Alzheimer's disease. The Sapphire II test takes 5 minutes and noninvasively scans the eye with a laser to image and spot amyloid-beta protein.
Meanwhile, Amarantus BioSciences Holdings ($AMBS) last month struck a deal to provide biomarker test services for Anavex Life Sciences' Alzheimer's drug candidates. Under the agreement, San Francisco's Amarantus will use its LymPro Test to see how well Anavex's Anavex 2-73 and Anavex Plus increase the expression of a CD69 biomarker in patients' peripheral blood lymphocytes.
And Fierce 15 company CorTechs Labs makes NeuroQuant, a computer program that automatically measures the volume of about 30 different substructures in the brain, including the hippocampus, to diagnose Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and traumatic brain injury/concussions.
- read more about the study from the American Academy of Neurology
Special Report: FierceMedicalDevices' 2014 Fierce 15 - CorTechs Labs